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Virtual workshops and events have become increasingly popular over the past few years, especially with the shift to remote work during the pandemic. Hosting an engaging virtual workshop presents unique opportunities and challenges compared to in-person events. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide professional event managers with tips and best practices for planning and facilitating an impactful virtual workshop from start to finish.
Virtual workshops and pieces of training have many benefits over in-person events. They allow you to reach a broader audience from anywhere in the world without geographical restrictions.
Participants also save on travel time and expenses. However, keeping attendees focused and engaged in a remote setting can be difficult. Without in-person interactions and cues, it’s easier for people’s attention to drift.
That’s why thoughtful planning and preparation is key for hosting a successful virtual workshop. You need to craft an interactive agenda focused on connection and collaboration. It’s also essential to leverage the right technology and engagement tools to create an immersive online experience.
In this post, we’ll explore best practices across every stage of planning a virtual workshop – from choosing a platform to facilitating activities. By following these tips, you can create an impactful and enjoyable event that leaves a lasting positive impression on your attendees.
Choose the Right Virtual Platform
Your virtual platform sets the stage for your entire workshop, so choose wisely based on your needs. Some key factors to consider include:
Built-in Collaboration Tools
Look for a platform with built-in video conferencing, screen sharing, whiteboards, chat and breakout rooms. This allows for seamless collaboration without needing extra software. Popular platforms like Zoom, WebEx and GoToMeeting offer these key features.
Choose a platform that allows you to add your company logo, colours and branding so the workshop space feels like yours.
Options like polls, Q&A, emojis and live reactions help keep attendees engaged instead of just passively listening.
Ensure the platform has precise audio capabilities. This is especially important if you plan multiple presenters or group discussions.
Consider if the platform requires software downloads or is entirely browser-based. Also, check if they have mobile apps to support access across devices.
Ease of Use
Pick an intuitive platform for both you as the host and your attendees. Simple interfaces mean less tech headaches all around.
Review safety and privacy features as you may be discussing confidential information.
Once you select your virtual workshop platform, create accounts and familiarise yourself with all the options and settings. Test your audio, video and screen sharing ahead of time. Provide demo logins for speakers to practice and troubleshoot any issues early on.
Pro tip: Have a backup plan, like providing a dial-in number in case of tech glitches during the live workshop.
Craft an Engaging Agenda
A well-structured agenda is crucial for an engaging virtual session. Avoid the temptation to cram too much content into your timeline. Instead, focus on interactive elements and breaks, which are even more important in a remote setting.
Aim for about 6 hours max of programmed time for a full-day workshop, including breaks. Research suggests the average adult attention span during online activities is 15-20 minutes.
Schedule 10-15 minute breaks every 60-90 minutes to allow people to refocus mentally and reduce screen fatigue.
Incorporate at least one interactive element every 20-30 minutes – e.g. polls, breakout discussions, Q&A sessions. This frequently shifts the format to maintain interest.
Combination of Presenters
Balance different presenters and speakers throughout the sessions to provide variety. Or consider including a panel discussion.
Include applied workshop activities like case studies, simulations, small group work and skills practice instead of just presentation slides.
Tailor the content and flow based on your audience, industry and program objectives. Avoid overly generic agendas.
Pre and Post Content
Supplement real-time sessions with materials like pre-reads, videos and workbooks that attendees access before and after the workshop.
Create a detailed facilitator guide for yourself or other hosts to keep sessions flowing smoothly. Include scripts, transition notes, activity instructions and more.
Promote Engagement with Virtual Participants
Keeping attendees actively engaged in a remote workshop takes some creative thinking. Use these tactics to mimic the interactivity of in-person events:
Kick things off with a fun icebreaker activity like virtual bingo cards, two truths, and a lie. This sets a welcoming tone and helps people make connections.
Incorporate game elements like jeopardy, trivia and scavenger hunts. These maintain energy and tap into participants’ competitive spirit.
Prompt attendees to post questions, comments and takeaways in the chat box to create an ongoing conversation.
Use poll questions to inspire participation and give real-time feedback on what resonates most.
Small Group Discussions
Break attendees into smaller groups for applied discussions and problem-solving. Then have groups report back key takeaways.
Leave ample time for audience Q&A and encourage people to unmute themselves or type questions into chat/Q&A boxes.
Incorporate clapping, thumbs up/down and yes/no visual cues to keep people actively responding.
Use gifs, videos, stories and humour strategically to capture wandering attention spans.
Highlight attendee experiences, products or programs by inviting people to share their video, screen or voice.
Craft a Post-Workshop Evaluation
Soliciting participant feedback is invaluable for improving your next virtual workshop.
Create a short post-event survey with ratings and multiple-choice and open-ended questions.
Key Areas to Evaluate
Ask about the workshop content, materials, length, pacing, activities, presenters and facilitation. Also, gather feedback on the technical aspects and virtual platform.
Satisfaction & Impact
Include questions to gauge overall participant satisfaction and the perceived impact of what they learned.
Allow attendees to share suggestions, highlights and any other open feedback.
Send the evaluation link immediately after the workshop ends while it’s still fresh in people’s minds. Follow up with non-respondents after a few days.
Review & Implement
Carefully review all responses and use feedback to shape planning for your next virtual workshop.
Hosting impactful virtual workshops takes strategic planning, tech preparation and audience engagement. By following the best practices covered in this guide, event managers can create immersive online experiences that deliver tangible value to attendees.
With the right platform, agenda, activities and presenters, you can facilitate rich discussion, collaboration and learning – even from behind a screen. Participant feedback also provides insights to help you continuously refine your approach and have an even more significant impact at your next virtual event.
The world of virtual workshops will only continue growing and evolving. Those who leverage these best practices will discover new opportunities to inform, inspire and connect with broader audiences anywhere, anytime.
The expertise you gain now will serve you well as we embrace more blended learning and events in the future.
So get ready to host your best virtual workshop yet and deliver an online event that leaves a lasting positive impression!